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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Who Let These People In Here?
The newest inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were just announced, and for once I have to say they have gotten it right this time. Namely, Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When they announced the nominees a few months ago, many people were left scratching their heads going “Huh?” Eric B. & Rakim? Rufus with Chaka Khan? Donna Summer? These are not names you think of when you name a “who’s who” of rock and roll icons and influences. Thankfully, those named above were not granted their pass into the Rock Hall.
Year after year, many people are shocked when bands like Kiss, Rush, Deep Purple, Chicago, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Cheap Trick are not even on the ballot. One recent nominee, Bon Jovi, saw their name on the nominee list one year, did not get inducted, and then were left completely off the ballot the next year. How does something like that seriously happen?
Per the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website (rockhall.com), a group or artist is qualified to be inducted as such:
“Currently, groups or individuals are qualified for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Nominees should have demonstrable influence and significance within the history of rock and roll. Four categories are recognized: Performers, Non-Performers, Early Influences, and Sidemen.”
The performers are nominated by a committee of “rock and roll historians” and “experts.” The fans have no say in who is inducted into the Hall of Fame. It should be further noted that some of the rock and roll historians and experts are not even musicians themselves. Many would like to know who these “experts” in rock and roll are, how, and why they came to the conclusions they do year after year? In looking at the nominees, one could argue there is some sort of payola or under-the-table pandering going on here. Seriously. I’m sure Eric B, Rufus, Chaka, and Donna would fit fine in the R&B Hall (if there is one), but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Is that where they belong?
That cry is probably one of the hugest from fans of artists that do not make the yearly nomination list: Many of the inductees are not a “rock and roll” act, let alone could be considered an influence on such. Examples of this are the recent inductions of Grandmaster Flash in 2007, Madonna in 2008, Run D.M.C. in 2009, and ABBA in 2010. In fact, votes were deliberately altered in 2007 so that Grandmaster Flash was inducted before The Dave Clark Five so that the Hall didn’t look prejudiced by not including a “rap act.” So Dave Clark had to wait an additional year to be inducted. It is a “Rock” Hall of Fame. Tell me where the prejudice is? At least Dave Clark got in the following year, and didn’t suffer the fate of Bon Jovi being left off all together the next year.
When you look at the list of inductees on the rockhall.com website, it becomes apparent that around 1997 is when the judges begin their obvious pandering towards the other styles or influences of music. This is the year that both The Bee Gees and The Jackson 5 were inducted. While no one can refuse that these artists were not successes in their own right, it was highly argumentative that either one could be considered rock and roll, let alone an influence of such.
Initially when the Hall opened, it appeared they tried to induct a “well rounded” class of acts each year by selecting pioneers and influential acts that helped shape today’s performers, and not just the newly qualified popular acts. While it is understood that not everyone likes every group or artist that is inducted, however most people would agree that the merit is there. I for one think Donna Summer was/is an amazing talent and discoed her way all over the place in the 1970’s. However, I do not agree with Donna Summer being anywhere near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is certainly not apples to apples. It’s more like apples to cucumbers. It just doesn’t work.
When it comes down to it, the most obvious variable in play here has to be money. In order to get a wide variety of people making a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you have to cover a larger variety of music and artists. When the Rock Hall opened in Cleveland, it had to overcome its first real obstacle: it’s location in Cleveland. Why not New York, Los Angeles, or even Chicago? Heck even Nashville would have been a great place given the music roots that town has provided. Cleveland has Lake Erie, the Indians, and Drew Carey.
So while I applaud the recent inductees, and all my faves that have made it in the past, I hope that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame “judges” stop including artists that are in no way an influence on rock and roll. Stick to your guns and induct those that represent the name on the building.